Molecular Genetics and Genomics

, Volume 282, Issue 3, pp 233–244 | Cite as

Evolutionarily engineered ethanologenic yeast detoxifies lignocellulosic biomass conversion inhibitors by reprogrammed pathways

Original Paper


Lignocellulosic biomass conversion inhibitors, furfural and HMF, inhibit microbial growth and interfere with subsequent fermentation of ethanol, posing significant challenges for a sustainable cellulosic ethanol conversion industry. Numerous yeast genes were found to be associated with the inhibitor tolerance. However, limited knowledge is available about mechanisms of the tolerance and the detoxification of the biomass conversion inhibitors. Using a robust standard for absolute mRNA quantification assay and a recently developed tolerant ethanologenic yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae NRRL Y-50049, we investigate pathway-based transcription profiles relevant to the yeast tolerance and the inhibitor detoxification. Under the synergistic inhibitory challenges by furfural and HMF, Y-50049 was able to withstand the inhibitor stress, in situ detoxify furfural and HMF, and produce ethanol, while its parental control Y-12632 failed to function till 65 h after incubation. The tolerant strain Y-50049 displayed enriched genetic background with significantly higher abundant of transcripts for at least 16 genes than a non-tolerant parental strain Y-12632. The enhanced expression of ZWF1 appeared to drive glucose metabolism in favor of pentose phosphate pathway over glycolysis at earlier steps of glucose metabolisms. Cofactor NAD(P)H generation steps were likely accelerated by enzymes encoded by ZWF1, GND1, GND2, TDH1, and ALD4. NAD(P)H-dependent aldehyde reductions including conversion of furfural and HMF, in return, provided sufficient NAD(P)+ for NAD(P)H regeneration in the yeast detoxification pathways. Enriched genetic background and a well maintained redox balance through reprogrammed expression responses of Y-50049 were accountable for the acquired tolerance and detoxification of furfural to furan methanol and HMF to furan dimethanol. We present significant gene interactions and regulatory networks involved in NAD(P)H regenerations and functional aldehyde reductions under the inhibitor stress.


Gene expression Lignocellulosic ethanol Pathway analysis qRT-PCR standard Stress tolerance 



We thank Scott Weber and Stephanie Thompson for technical assistance and Pat Slininger for discussions. This work was supported by the National Research Initiative of the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, grant number 2006-35504-17359.

Supplementary material

438_2009_461_MOESM1_ESM.doc (48 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 217 kb)
438_2009_461_MOESM2_ESM.doc (22 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOC 56 kb)
438_2009_461_MOESM3_ESM.doc (103 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOC 183 kb)


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Copyright information

© US Government 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research1815 N UniversityPeoriaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Computer ScienceNew Mexico State UniversityLas CrucesUSA

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